Biden executive order will protect 3.6 million LGBT students in the US from discrimination

Today, President Biden signed an executive order aimed at protecting students from discrimination on the basis of sex, including sexual orientation and gender identity. The order directs the Secretary of Education and the Attorney general to review all existing regulations and policies to ensure that they comply with Title XI, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any education programs or activities that received federal financial assistance.

According to the Williams Institute, an estimated 3.6 million students in the U.S. identify as LGBT, including about 150,000 who identify as transgender. Several Williams Institute studies have documented widespread and pervasive harassment and bullying of LGBTQ+ students at school.

Additionally, President Biden signed an order that will establish a Gender Policy Council to promote workplace diversity, fairness, and inclusion across the federal workforce and military and to combat gender-based violence.

An estimated 5.1% of women in the U.S. identify as LGBT and an estimated 24% of female same-sex couples are raising children, compared to 8% of male same-sex couples. Williams Institute research finds that LGBT women, in particular women of color, are disproportionately impacted by unemployment, poverty, and homelessness.

“President Biden’s executive orders signal a dedication by the federal government to protecting two subpopulations of the LGBT community—LGBTQ students and women—from discrimination and its socioeconomic effects,” said Christy Mallory, Legal Director at the Williams Institute.

Research Highlights

LGBT Students

  • Approximately 2 million LGBT high school students live in states without explicit state-level statutory protections from discrimination in education.
  • A 2019 study found that antibullying state laws that enumerate sexual orientation were associated with lower risk for suicide attempts and greater opportunities for feeling safe at school for all high schoolers.
  • An analysis of high school students in four urban areas found that 22% of lesbian and gay youth and 11% of bisexual youth had missed school because they felt unsafe in the past month compared to 7% of non-LGB students. Gender non-conforming students reported higher levels of bullying and more school absences than other students.
  • LGBT youth in California were two to three times as likely to say they missed school because they were sad, hopeless, or anxious or because they didn’t feel safe school in the past month than non-LGBT students.
  • A 2014 report found that over half of transgender adults who had experienced harassment or bullying in school reported lifetime suicide attempts.

LBQ Women

  • 10% of LGBT women are unemployed and 27% have annual incomes below $24,000 compared to 6% and 21% of non-LGBT women, respectively.
  • Lesbian (17%) and straight (17%) women have higher poverty rates than gay (12%) and straight (13%) men.
  • 29% of bisexual women and transgender people (including transgender women) experience poverty.
  • 17% of LGB women have been homeless at some point in their lifetime, compared to 6% of the general population.
  • A 2020 study found one in three LGBT women experienced food insecurity in the year prior to the survey compared to one in five LGBT men.
  • Elimination of a gender wage gap would reduce the poverty rate for women in same-sex couples 8% to 5%. Eliminating the racial wage gap would reduce the poverty rate for African American women in same-sex couples from 25% to 17%, and the rate for Hispanic women in same-sex couples would drop from 9% to 7%.
  • Lesbian and bisexual women report challenges in raising children with low incomes and facing discrimination based on their sexual orientation and gender expression.
March 8, 2021

Media Contact: Rachel Dowd
Office: 310-206-8982


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